These Studies Show How ‘The Fox Effect’ Pushed Congress, Country To The Right

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In a paper published last week, conservative economist Bruce Bartlett made the case that Fox News has had a significant effect on the political process and electoral outcomes in America, yet another contribution to the study of “The Fox Effect.”

Since Fox founder and chairman Roger Ailes opened shop in 1996, the effects of the powerhouse conservative channel on the media landscape have been widely noted. Bartlett, a onetime advisor to Rep. Ron Paul and President Ronald Reagan and official in the administration George H.W. Bush, cites several studies showing how Fox broke into an untapped market for a single conservative news source after years of FCC regulations which required equal time for political debate (the so-called “fairness doctrine” ended in 1987 under President Reagan.)

But Barlett also surfaced studies which show that that the Fox Effect changed not only Americans’ media diet, but their political behavior as well — boosting turnout for the GOP and pushing both Republicans and Democrats rightward in Congress.

A 2007 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that the arrival of Fox had a “significant effect” on the presidential elections from 1996 to 2000: Republican candidates gained 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in towns that broadcast the channel. (The research also credited Fox with GOP gains in the Senate.)

Meanwhile, a 2014 study by The National Bureau of Economic Research found that the likelihood of voting Republican increased by 0.9 points among viewers who watched “four additional minutes per week.”

Bartlett also found research that shows the Fox Effect caused congressmen in both parties to “increase their support for Republican policies.”

Last year, researchers out of Princeton and Vanderbilt found that during the Clinton years, members of Congress became “less supportive of President Clinton in districts where Fox News begins broadcasting than similar representatives in similar districts where Fox News was not broadcast.”

“Fox News caused both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to increase support for the Republican Party position on divisive votes,” a 2015 study by in Journal of Political Science found, “but only in the waning months of the election cycle and among those members who represent districts with a sizable portion of Republican voters.”

One final twist: These days, the misinformation peddled by Fox may actually lull conservative viewers and voters into a false sense of security.

Bartlett cited a University of Georgia study to argue that “wishful thinking” may have hurt Republicans’ efforts to take the White House in 2012.

“It may be that some Republican Fox viewers became complacent and didn’t work as hard as they might if they had been more aware of how badly Romney was doing in the final days of the campaign,” he wrote.

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Notable Replies

  1. Remarkably enough, everything we said for the last 9 years–and for which we were accused of being “paranoid”–has turned out to be exactly true. Funny old world, innit?

  2. Meanwhile, a 2014 study by The National Bureau of Economic Research found that the likelihood of voting Republican increased by 0.9 points among viewers who watched “four additional minutes per week.”

    IF I sTOP watCHIng I"LL go FULL LIbtard!1!!!one!1!!!

  3. Fox News…Pete Peterson’s 1 BILLION dollar propaganda campaign about the debt, citizens united…it all adds up to a protracted war on fact

  4. Mr. Marshall, I so want to thank you for linking this piece by Mr. Bartlett. I read it yesterday and, yes, it all does make perfect sense to me. I’m just so glad there is so much information and reference in one place – and by a Republican, at that. Thank you, Bruce Bartlett, as well.

  5. I feel the general impact of television, its effectiveness, has lessened in the postmodern world partly from the expansion of the media stage with various competing digital platforms but mostly, from increased public awareness of past ham-handed efforts to politically manipulate with the medium.
    An old public TV pledge break axiom says that the longer the pledge break is broadcast the more successful that break will be in generating cash…short break = little cash, long break = maximum cash.
    Additionally, all public TV control room audio booths had a recording of telephones ringing to be used if call-ins to a pledge break were few and far between…Before tape airs = 0 calls, after phone ringing tape airs = multiple calls.
    This is what once made TV advertising so powerful, secured its past regulation and what still confuses old school leaders who still imagine, post truthiness, one TV appearance locks-in their marketing strategy.
    So, the old powers plotting to secretly control TV once had a real prize in their sights. Ironically, the successful efforts to secure that prize coupled with technological advances have brought about not quite what billionaires paid for and what old H.W.'s minions worked so hard to achieve.

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